Can the internet spark a tactical revolution?
Football fans on the internet get a hard time from the mainstream media and people within the game itself. Isolated comments and forum threads are pounced upon and used as evidence of a sinister and socially retarded community. Now, there is no denying there are some strange characters who are in possession of a warped sense of reality, amongst the on-line footballing community, if you think this problem is exclusive to football I urge you to check the comments section of almost any article posted on the web (be prepared for a potent combination of hatred and sub-standard grammar).
If you are prepared to ignore the vitriol and the bitching though, there is evidence of a new breed of football fan, one who may be of great benefit to the game in this country. This new fan is informed, tactically aware and willing to embrace new ideas.
During the build up to the Champions League final between Manchester United and FC Barcelona it became obvious that the most interesting and valid discussions were taking place not on the pages of the tabloid press or in the ITV/Sky studios but on fan sites and forums.
Should United play with three at the back to counter the “false no.9” role performed by Messi? Would it be a good idea to use “inverted full backs” against Barca’s “inverted wingers”? Is the best way to disrupt the rhythm of “Tiki-Taka” to put someone on Busquets all the time? These were all questions posed and debated in great detail on various, much derided forums. Now whether or not these would have had any impact on the outcome of the game is irrelevant, in a country where tactics is a still seen by many as a dirty word there is a lively tactical debate going on, albeit separately from the mainstream media’s coverage.
Football in this country, depending on your point of view is either in danger of being left behind, or has already been left staring forlornly at the Spanish, Dutch and Germans disappearing over the horizon.
Whenever a team from these shores, either club or international, suffers a defeat at the hands of some stylish foreigners the inquest inevitably begins. Questions are asked about the teams desire, their passion and occasionally their technical expertise. Do the players like the manager? Can he motivate the team? The closest our newspapers and TV stations get to a discussion on tactics is usually a denouncement of the current formation and very little in the way of alternatives. For a genuinely wide ranging and intriguing debate you really have to venture on-line.
Football fans in other countries have in general, always been more tactically aware, and in-depth discussions regarding tactics are the norm in mainstream media outlets, Italy being a good example of this. With the game in general becoming more technical and with the tightening of rules regarding tackling, the traditional British style of “getting stuck in” is becoming less and less viable.
Talking about tactics doesn’t make you soft. Passion and desire are important but will only get you so far. You cannot take a team to a major summer tournament tell them to play at a high tempo and then be surprised when they run out of steam.
As a nation we need to become more aware of tactics, and embrace tactical innovations as an intriguing way to enhance the game, not something to be viewed with suspicion.
The debate will not take place on the back page or editorial of the Sun or the Mirror, they will continue to be more interested in hair transplants, super injunctions and borderline xenophobic headlines. The modern day football fan is not an idiot, their appreciation (and I believe enjoyment) of the game is being stunted by a sub-standard media. The really interesting opinions are coming from fans, and the internet is the perfect platform to express and debate these opinions.
Increased tactical awareness can only be good for the development of the game in this country, and the often lamented internet football fan is the key to a more enlightened footballing future. Don’t allow yourself to be “dumbed down” by sensationalist headlines and stories with no substance, there is a world of knowledge out there that has the potential to increase your appreciation and enjoyment of “the beautiful game”.
Who knows, in years to come instead of the usual pub debates regarding “bottle” and “heart” we may find ourselves discussing the merits of the advanced libero. And the game will be all the better for it.